But this has come at a cost. The stress on our planet has been immense. Human beings have dramatically altered the climate, changed the chemistry of the oceans, and triggered mass extinctions. The impact has been so great as to define an entirely new geological era – the Anthropocene, turbo charged by a “great acceleration” of population, economic growth and natural resource consumption since the 1950s.
So what will the world be like for our children? By 2050, the population is projected to top 9 billion. People will probably live better and longer lives. Global GDP will likely triple; natural resource consumption will double. And the effects of climate change–some now inevitable–will be felt more strongly than they are today. Sea levels will be higher, weather more erratic, biodiversity less, and water and natural resources likely scarcer. People who live in poverty will be especially vulnerable to natural disasters, land degradation, water shortages, and shocks in food production.
In a large, complex, or urgent situation, the command goes out: “All hands on deck!”
Sub-Saharan Africa faces such a clarion call now. It is the only region in the world with a growing number of children under the age of five who have stunted growth, meaning they are too short for their age. Although the number of children affected by stunting globally has decreased drastically since 1990, Africa is the only region that has seen an increase in the number of children stunted despite a decrease in the prevalence of stunting.
The message on inclusive education is simple: Every learner matters – and matters equally.
This was the shared spirit when experts from 12 African countries came together in Nairobi, Kenya in late October for the ‘Technical Learning Session on Inclusive Education in Africa’ to share knowledge, ideas, challenges, and priorities toward inclusive education.
The ultimate barrier to education is no schooling at all. Inclusion of children with disabilities can result in significant gains to national economies helping break the cycle of poverty.
We are living in a learning crisis. According to the World Bank’s 2018 World Development Report, millions of students in developing countries are in schools that are failing to educate them to succeed in life. According to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, there are 617 million children and youth of primary and secondary school age who are not learning the basics in reading, two-thirds of whom are attending school. The urgency to invest in learning is clear.
In the first season of The Wire, an American crime drama television series, a young girl who lives in a poor and crime-ridden neighborhood asks Wallace, a teenaged drug dealer, for help with a math problem. It's a word problem that has multiple passengers getting on and off a bus and that asks how many passengers are on the bus at the end of it. The girl is lost. Wallace reframes the problem for her, describing a situation in which different buyers and sellers of crack cocaine take and give her different numbers of vials. When she answers correctly, Wallace asks her why she can't do the same problem when it's in her math book. She explains that if she gets the vial count wrong, the drug dealers will hurt her, so she must get it right.
When I was 13, my literature teacher Estela asked the class to look at two drawings and write down a story about each one them. I looked at the drawings: one was of a man in a suit and tie who was carrying a suitcase and wearing a watch. The other was of the same man but he had a beard, torn clothes and broken shoes. I wrote the first story about a successful man with an amazing family, the second about a poor, sad man who had no friends. Estela seemed disappointed and asked me if people are defined by their clothes. That day, my teacher spoke about prejudices and I learned something that I won’t forget.
In every country, there are dedicated and enthusiastic teachers who enrich and transform the lives of millions of children. Silent heroes who often lack proper training, teaching materials and are not recognized for their work. Heroes who defy the odds and make learning happen with passion, creativity and determination.
With the World Bank’s assistance, many governments are seeking to expand or improve early childhood education programs. The Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund is supporting a number of evaluations that will help us estimate the benefits of these investments, but we shouldn’t just care about effectiveness. In a world of resource constraints, we also need to tell countries about the cost-effectiveness of these investments. To do this, we need to know the costs of the programs we’re evaluating. Unfortunately, organizations often don’t collect and regularly report intervention specific cost data.
Alaa Jundi, 27, from Tebbaneh outside Tripoli, Lebanon, didn’t have the chance to continue his education. But he loved the arts and had an ambition was of being an actor one day. After feeling hopeless that he had no opportunities, he took art classes that were part of a World Bank project to build his skills. “At first, I felt this was a dream, I was just participating to fill my time and practice my hobby.” But the skills he learned led him to opening an entertainment company with a colleague to host kids’ birthday parties and events.
When I was your age “checking your mail” meant walking to the post office and collecting letters, “tweet” meant the chirping of a bird, and “cloud” meant rain! Today, we live in a very different world.